Friday, 4 September 2015

Margaret Wotton and her son Henry Grey

Margaret Wotton (1487-1541) was the mother of Henry Grey (1517-54), the future father of Queen Jane Grey, by her second husband Thomas Grey. After the death of her husband, Margaret and Henry's relationship deteriorated and only worsened over the years. 

Hans Holbein the Younger (after) - Margaret, Marchioness of Dorset (Anglesey Abbey).jpg
Margaret Wotton, early 1530's
Margaret's husband died on the 10th October 1530, and her son Henry succeeded as the Marquis of Dorset. Due to Henry still being a minor, Margaret was granted custody of her late husband's estate until her son reached maturity. This was the first problem created as Margaret was now in charge of providing Henry with an allowance, which had been outlined in her late husband's will. Henry believed this allowance was not sufficient for someone of his position. This control over her son's finances and restrictions upon him shocked her peers as they saw it as a lack of generosity and motherly care. They also said her actions were not appropriate towards a man, like Henry, who was a close kinsman to the king - through the king's mother Elizabeth of York. In 1534 Margaret felt the need to respond to the allegations against her being an 'unnatural mother'. She agreed to increase his allowance and help to strengthen his position 'as my small power is and shall be'.

In late 1530 or early 1531 Henry Grey broke his pre-contract of marriage to Katherine FitzAlan, daughter of the Earl of Arundel. It seems that the couple disliked each other greatly, and that this was the reason for it being called off by Henry. For this breach of contract, a fine of 4000 marks was to be paid to the Earl of Arundel by Henry, or rather by Margaret, in yearly installments of 300 marks - which would take around 13 years to pay off in its entirety. 
This huge, and unexpected, debt left Margaret worried that she may "not set forth my daughters in marriage" - of which she had four - "neither continue in the keeping of my poor house". She argued that her husband's estate was "right small" in comparison to the debts her husband left as well as the everyday expenses of her children and household. 
On 19th November 1531 Margaret wrote to Thomas Cromwell asking him to negotiate with the Earl of Arundel on her behalf, so that he would reduce the debt she owed him by 1000 marks. She felt this was justified as the marriage contract between her daughter Katherine Grey and the Earl of Arundel's son and heir Henry had only cost 3000 marks and therefore why should the marriage of his daughter cost more. 
In 1537 Katherine FitzAlan was exchanging letters with Thomas Cromwell which stated that he supported her in her dispute with Margaret Wotton in relation to the debt she owed; it is possible that Margaret was behind on payments or was refusing to pay them.

For the marriage between Henry and Frances Brandon to go ahead in 1533, Margaret agreed to it solely upon the condition that Frances' father Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, supported the couple financially for the duration of Henry's minority.

In 1538 Henry Grey reached his age of majority and therefore came into possession of his inheritance from his father. Soon after, Henry took his financial problems with his mother to the King's Council, where she did admit that Henry's allowance was not 'meet or sufficient to maintain his estate' and she offered to increase the amount he was receiving. However, this did nothing to ease the tension between the two and as a result Margaret moved out of the family home of Bradgate House. Henry would not allow his mother's servants to retrieve her personal possessions so she could take them with her. Margaret wrote to Thomas Cromwell asking for his help with her son and that he could persuade Henry to give her her possessions as she was a 'poor widow...unkindly and extremely...handled by my son marquis'.

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